New Year, New Numbers on the Allentown Incinerator Deal, New Polling Numbers for Ed Pawlowski

advocacy, economics, justice, politics

I’m going to let you in on a little not-so secret secret.  Here in Allentown, nobody believes that the controversial DTE garbage-to-energy plant is going to be built.  My hunch is that some of the people pushing for it and guiding it through its controversial (and, in my opinion, contrived) approval didn’t believe it would come to fruition even then.  The City of Allentown spent $500,000 on consulting in support of this project as directed by Mayor Ed Pawlowski.   One is made to wonder if the whole project wasn’t just a washing of said $500,000 to political allies/campaign donors.  One is made to wonder.

The indefatigable Rich Fegley posted this today on Facebook and on Molivinsky:

“As the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association has stated, Pawlowski and PFM used FALSE and MISLEADING information to convince the Public and City Council that the 35-year INCINERATOR contract was “good” and “better than landfilling” for the City and would save us “$25 million”.

The FACT is that the City now will lose $113 million according to Pawlowski and PFM’s projections. The false landfill costs of $92.29 compared to Easton’s 2014 contracted price of $40.44 for the next 7-years.

Allentown will now lose $113 million according to Pawlowski’s own projections.

Does anyone care about this loss? This is a real number. I am still shocked that no one has really picked up on this shit storm yet.

Think about this, if Pawlowski and PFM basically lied to us about the 35-year incinerator deal, imagine what lies we have been told about the water & sewer lease? Even if not “lies”, what we were told was more than likely misleading, as a few of us in the community have been saying.

Imagine what false and misleading information we have been given regarding the water & sewer deal. And how about the pension deal?

This is embarrassing for the City of Allentown. Why are we allowing Pawlowski and PFM to mislead City Council and the Public?

I blame members of City Council for claiming IGNORANCE when it comes to these DEALS Pawlowski is making.

I have heard Council members claim ignorance when it comes to detailed legal contracts and financial projections. President Guridy has said that he must simply trust the Mayor and the attorneys and accountants.

Ignorance is bliss. Wake up Anonymous, we are all being duped.”

He also posted this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 12.54.50 AM

Most observers understand that Mr. Pawlowski never imagined he could actually win the governor’s race in 2014.   The suspicion among many is that the goal was to do well enough in the primary to land a spot in the incoming Democratic administration.  Some Pawlowski for Governor PAC money here and there to eventual nominee (all legal), bada bing, bada boom.  Michael Donovan and Rich Fegley have made that scenario all but impossible thanks to their stalwart efforts in this year’s mayoral election.  These things matter.

Asthma and Our Urban Cores: Global Impact and Direct Local Action (vote for your lungs)

advocacy, culture, justice

Like the doctor in this short and important story, I was also diagnosed with asthma in 1984. He was a Harvard med school student working in Haiti. I was a four-year old boy in Berks County making a late night emergency trip to the hospital in Allentown. If I’d lived in Haiti then, I might not have seen 5. The inequality that makes that statement true is even worse now. Please read this story. When you do, understand that our urban cores, and the 40 percent of kids in them with asthma, need preventative care just as much as kids in Haiti.

In Allentown, this means, in part, fighting the Delto Thermo Energy incinerator rammed down our lungs.  There are two ways you can help.  If you’re voting in the May 21 Democrat primary, vote for candidates who oppose the incinerator.  These include all the challengers (Alfonso Todd, Kim Velez, David Melman, and Carmen Bell) as well as incumbent Ray O’Connell.   (Mr. O’Connell did vote for the water lease, something all four challengers oppose, as do I and many others).

It also means that come November, you should vote FOR the clean air ordinance.

My Thoughts on the Delta Thermo Deal and Last Night’s City Council Meeting and What I Said There

business, development, economics, politics

I just got home from City Council.  I had to leave before the vote, but not before I waited 4 hours to share my thoughts with the public and with Council.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can learn about it here.  In the interest of time, I’m just going to post my thoughts as I shared them.  Some context:  you should know that there was a very large union presence at the meeting, so much so that before 7 PM the Council Chamber was packed out and people weren’t being let in.  It was at this point that some folks reached out to some local media, because it looked like the fairness, integrity (and possibly, legality) of the meeting was in jeopardy.  Thankfully, that got resolved (and the media was already there).  More context: the unions are strongly in support of the DTE project.  I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’m not.

What I ended up saying, in a nutshell, around 11 PM:

  • I live in Allentown, work in Allentown and pay taxes in Allentown.
  • I work for the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley – Berks, but I also sit on the Justice and Advocacy Committee of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches.  In both capacities, labor issues are extremely important.   The Justice and Advocacy Committee deals with issues of worker justice, livable wages, economic disparity, and I’m sympathetic to those concerns.
  • I was able to have a conference all today with Peter Crownfield (of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities LV) and permitting official with DEP.  That official explained to us that DTE does NOT have an air quality permit from the Commonwealth (they’ve used vague language to intimate that they do).  They DO have an exemption that pertains to research and development, not a commercial facility.  (Here I affirmed what Peter already said).
  • I talked about my discomfort with this and other transparency issues in this process.  I said that unions know better than anyone that when Business isn’t transparent, Labor doesn’t win.  The environment doesn’t win, our communities don’t win, and our politicians [in this case] don’t win.
  • The Mayor (he’s strongly in favor of the project) said he thought it was a progressive solution.  I said “I’m having trouble reconciling that with the fact that I’ve seen nothing in this discussion that shows me there’s anything in place to incentivize our communities to waste less and reuse/recycle more.  Progressive movements nationally have said with one voice that reduction and reuse are the way forward, and there’s nothing here that makes me think this project will reward that over the next 35 years.  (It’s a 35 year commitment to 2012 technology.  After 10 years, there’s an opt-out option, but  that wold require the City to buy out DTE’s interest and/or facility.  That’s a lot of money we don’t have).
  • With respect to the gentleman from DTE who talked about one of the other bidders having just gone out of business as a sign that the City was right to chose DTE, I said that frankly, that makes me worry more about the utility of this project and its long term prospect for success.
  • I said that as City Council knows, the Pennsylvania Constitution makes some pretty progressive claims about the environment.  Clear air, clean water, and clean land (all germane to this discussion) are a right of all Pennsylvanians.  We need to be committed to a truly progressive way forward, and a deal that locks us in long-term to today’s technology (actually, three technologies that have never been used together in the way DTE proposes, and never put into a practice in a plant anywhere by DTE) negates the possibility of us moving forward in truly progressive ways.
  • 35 years ago, Bethlehem Steel would have paid a  lot of the salaries in this room and put chickens in every pot.  Whatever happened to Lehigh Structural Steel?  Anyone remember Hess’s?  Things change, and they change quickly and that’s truer now than ever.  We know that this kind of technology is changing all the time: entering into this deal on these terms prevents us from pursuing truly progressive technologies as they emerge.
  • Thank you for the time.